words // Brandon Richard
It’ll be what people are calling “Déjà Blue” in Super Bowl XLVI, where the New England Patriots and New York Giants will renew their match-up from 2008. Then, Giants entered the big game as decisive underdogs, taking on the seemingly impossible task of upsetting the then-undefeated Patriots. However, a little Eli Manning resiliency and a miraculous grab from wide receiver David Tyree helped New York make a little history of their own, setting the stage for this year’s rematch.
Getting to Super Bowl XLVI wasn’t easy for either team. Both Conference Championship games were extremely close, decided by unthinkable special teams mistakes in the final seconds.
In a game that figured to match up a potent offense against a devastating defense, the Patriots and Ravens both received top-notch defensive efforts in the AFC Championship. Baltimore was once again able to stifle Tom Brady’s usual efficient passing, limiting him to 239 yards, 0 touchdown passes and picking him off twice on the day. Surprisingly, the better quarterback in this game was Joe Flacco, making enough plays to give the Ravens a chance to pull off the win. Going into the locker room at halftime, the Patriots led 13-10 after kicker Stephen Gostkowski connected on his second field goal of the game.
Baltimore took control of the game in the third quarter. Gostkowski struck first, pushing the lead to six with a 24-yard field goal, but the rest of the scoring in the frame would be done by the birds. Flacco found the speedy Torrey Smith for a 29-yard score to give the Ravens their first lead of the game with a little over three minutes to play in the quarter. After a fumble by Danny Woodhead on the ensuing kickoff, the Ravens took possession again deep in Patriots territory, but only managed a field goal to push the lead to four points.
On the first drive of the fourth quarter, New England took the lead back when Brady snuck the ball in for a touchdown on 4th and 1. Both defenses then recorded interceptions on the quarterback on consecutive drives, leading way to a dramatic finish. Taking the ball back with 1:44 left to play, Flacco marched Baltimore down the field with big passes to Anquan Boldin. On the New England 14 with 27 seconds to play, Flacco found Lee Evans in the endzone for what looked like the game-winning touchdown, but Evans took his eyes off the ball and cornerback Sterling Moore knocked it out of his hands to force the incompletion. After another incomplete pass on third down, kicker Billy Cundiff attempted a game-tying 32-yard field goal, but missed wide left to send New England to another Super Bowl.
The scene was similar in San Francisco, where two spirited defensive efforts made for another classic Conference Championship game. Last week’s hero Vernon Davis started things off this week, taking an Alex Smith pass to the house for a 73-yard touchdown on the team’s second possession of the game. New York wouldn’t respond until early in the second quarter, where they tied things up with a Bear Pascoe touchdown reception. Lawrence Tynes added a 31-yard field goal to give the Giants a 10-7 advantage at halftime.
San Francisco re-assumed control of the game in the third quarter, when Vernon Davis caught his second touchdown pass of the game, a 28-yarder that gave San Francisco a 14-10 lead. Defensive stands by both teams left Davis’ catch as the only score of the frame, setting up another fourth quarter for the ages.
An Eli Manning pass to Mario Manningham early in the fourth quarter gave New York a 17-14 lead. The 49ers responded with a scoring drive of their own, a 25-yard David Akers field goal that evened things up. Big defensive stops were aplenty in the remainder of regulation, which finished with a 17-17 tie game.
The strong defensive efforts continued in overtime, both teams not giving up much yardage in short-lived drives. On their second possession of overtime, the Giants were forced to punt, but 49ers return man fumbled the return. The fumble was recovered by receiver and special teams player Devin Thomas. After a few plays to shorten the field, Lawrence Tynes successfully converted a 31-yard field goal attempt, giving the Giants a chance at their second NFL Lombardi Trophy in four years.
Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler sang what we believe was supposed to be the National Anthem.
Future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Ray Lewis squared off in Under Armour football cleats.
Joe Flacco scrambles in Molded NFL U-Form 4Speed Mid M4 Reebok football cleats.
Lee Evans runs after making a catch in the Nike Zoom Vapor Carbon Fly.
Rob Gronkowski always tough to pull down in his Zoom Hyperfly TD Nike football cleats.
Billy “Ray Finkle” Cundiff went wide left on the potential game-tying kick in the Under Armour Nitro Low MC.
The New England Patriots are AFC Champions once again.
Frank Gore stretches out to make a grab in the adidas Scorch X Mid.
Eli Manning weathered the storm in his usual Reebok football cleats.
Vernon Davis off to the races in the Under Armour Nitro III Low.
Rookie phenom Aldon Smith celebrates in the Nike Zoom Vapor Carbon Fly.
Victor Cruz makes a grab in Vapor Talon Elite Low TD Nike football cleats.
Lawrence Tynes kicks the game-winning field goal in Tiempo Nike soccer cleats.
Eli talks to Terry Bradshaw in official Reebok 2011 NFC Championship Gear.
images via Yahoo